Our life has been needlessly stressful over the last few days. Life, for a sick person, should be easy; at least that’s how I feel it should be. My (insane) opinion is that the universe has dealt sick people a raw deal; so, everything outside of the sick-thing is supposed to be puppies, rainbows, and eating without calories.
This philosophy sometimes gets me in trouble. It makes me binge shop, binge eat, and do all sorts of things I shouldn’t. Frankly, since I’m basically a goody two shoes, that’s about everything in the “things I shouldn’t do department.” But, because of this sense of entitlement to a decent life, outside of sickness, I tend to think that when I (or my family) get(s) screwed over, that I’m (we’re) entitled to apologies.
This has caused a great deal of consternation in my family’s life, of late. My poor husband and I have been doing a lot of hand-wringing, over what amounts to a temper-tantrum that my mother-in-law threw, way back in December. My gosh, that was forever ago! Seems like someone should just get over it, already, right? Tried that approach. Admittedly, sassily. But, nah.
This isn’t going to be a whiny complaint about my MIL being a pain; okay, maybe it is, a little. It’s a missive about why people can’t just get along, especially families. And moreover, why can’t people make peace, and apologize, for the greater good?
Generally, I’d agree, that any spat that has gone on for this long is no good. For example, my sister and I didn’t speak for years, and it was terrible. But, I’m also glad we had that break because, I think, we both learned that we aren’t the people we’d imagined each other to be, the ones that we’d learned to hate, and be angry at, so readily and so spitefully. I think that the break reset those buttons we’d learned to push so easily; but, I missed her, more than I knew. She’s a link to a part of my life I want to put in a box and never open again; but, she’s also a piece of me that I want to hold onto and love. Now that we are speaking again, thank goodness, I see how alike we are. She’s silly (in the best way) and ridiculous; she’s strong and resilient; she’s brave. Somehow, we’re everything the same, and everything different, all at the same time, and I’m grateful to know her again. If something came between us again, I’d rush to fix it, because that’s what family is: peace and appreciation. I regret the terrible thing I said that made her not speak to me, and I’ll never do something like that again; but I’m glad I did it, because it taught me not to do that again.
But, this thing that’s happening with my MIL? I am not over it, and neither is my husband. He’s not over being called home from work early to rescue his wife, who was trembling in fear, having locked herself in our bedroom, afraid of said MIL. Neither of us are over being told that we’re not entitled to our hurts. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be over being told that everything is, and always was, my fault, for a variety of reasons, including that, essentially, I’m mentally ill. For realsies. Hang on, I have to tell my other voices to quiet down…Okay, I’m back.
Despite my relatively crappy family, growing up, I had this idyllic idea of what it would be like when I had my own family; I dreamed that in the world outside my dark nuclear family, families loved one another, and everyone was always nice. Maybe I watched too many sitcoms; this was before I realized what was going one behind the scenes on “The Cosby Show,” obviously. I’m the first to admit that my standards were too high. I had some adjustments to make, as no one can live up to what I’d hoped to find when I crawled out of my cave, into the real world. No one hugs it out in thirty minutes and wears matching sweaters all the time.
Since then, I’ve learned that, some people’s idea of familial love, isn’t offered unconditionally. Instead it’s a weird version of “like,” contingent on bizarre sets of ever-changing rules. For example, one must emphatically support, without question, whatever thing the family member treats as religion, such as pseudo-scientific rants about American gluten causing not only obesity, but also diabetes. Questions, or even nods will be taken as argument, for these types of people, and therefore soul-crushing doubt, of their very being. Thus, you might as well consider yourself out of the will. You can change the topic to one you feel more comfortable discussing such as: letting your child fly cross-country, unaccompanied; why your kid’s autism diagnosis appears to be bullshit; why your brain surgeries were a waste of time; or, when you think it’s time to step up and be a “real” parent to your kid.
That last one was a joke, supposedly. Ha. Ha. Ha. In general, I think I’m a fucking riot, and I’m the first to poke fun at, well, everyone, including myself. Here’s some ammunition, in case someone wants to make an actual joke about me, instead of pretending that an asshole comment about me was a joke-in-disguise: when I’m not accidentally interrupting someone, I’m talking too loudly; I am incredibly clumsy; if you’ve ever see me dance, I make Elaine look graceful; I can’t read maps, and once got so lost in an airport that I needed a police escort to leave (after driving around for TWO HOURS).
With this battle royale, it’s not important, anymore, who’s right, or wrong – we’re obviously right, or I wouldn’t waste my time and energy talking about it, duh! (and two days writing this) And, its not about who has said what, to who – both sides have said stupid shit, including me. What is important, in family drama like this, in any family, is how quickly, and easily a simple “I’m sorry,” could have, and still can, fix everything. If you follow it up with a side-helping of “I was an asshole” it’d be like the sky parted and Jesus himself rode down on a unicorn.
It occurs to me that sick people don’t have the market cornered on this kind of bullshit, do they? I googled mothers-in-law, and “difficult,” to write this. I was a shocked at how many results there were. But, another thing occurred to me: some people, mothers-in-law or not, just suck. Our little falling out started because I was sick. And, while the event in question revolved around a particularly hairy episode of my illness, mothers-in-law, and difficult people, in general, are walking joke-targets, for a reason.
Shows like Everybody Loves Raymond wouldn’t have run for 325 seasons if mothers-in-law weren’t easy marks. The particular species of mother-in-law that we are dealing with, the ones who cause a stink, pout about it for six months, refuse to apologize, and then blame the wronged party, go by the Latin genus name: buttinski-painius-in-the assius. This is not to be confused with the sweet kind of mother-in-law: helpfulius-amazingius. I’ve got one of those too, and I’m beyond grateful for her.
Everyone’s mother-in-law morphs into the buttinski, every once in a while. I’m excited to become a mother-in-law, one of these days. But, I keep an ever-evolving list for myself, as I watch situations like this one evolve (devolve?), of things I promise myself I won’t do, and things I will try to do.
If someone tells me that I hurt them, I promise not to dictate their feelings; or worse; I promise not to excuse them away with my own bullshit. It takes courage for someone to admit that they are hurt, because it upsets the status quo ecosystem of a family. If someone tells me that I hurt them, the starting place is not to tell them their feelings are wrong, but that I’m sorry I was the cause.
Continuing to Value Collin…and the Future
When Collin was born, all other things in the universe ceased to matter. My sun rises when he wakes, and he turns the tides with his moods. There’s nothing he, or his future wife could do that would make me angry enough to keep me away. If his wife asked me to apologize because she dreamed I’d hurt her, I’d do it. Okay, future-psycho; I’m sorry, can I hold my grand-baby now? And, can we go to family counseling?
I promise that I will never allow my son to be a go-between in a family drama. Bryon attempted to avoid, and mitigate this confrontation, for the past six months, by being a mediator. This resulted in the world’s worst game of telephone, increasing the anger of people who felt they weren’t being heard. Diplomacy only works in affairs of the state, not in family affairs. Now, everyone is angry at everyone else.
Sit on Anger
Bryon made me sit on every angry reply, for days, or sometimes weeks. It made me furious, at the time; I was so furious, that it usually cost me another day in the waiting cycle. He was right though. With the exception of the last message I sent, which was basically a “fuck you,” sent in, surprise, anger, I kept my cool. I learned a lot from being forced to be rational, even in the face of fury. I promise to always sit on anger; no good comes of it.
I know it’s a really arrogant attitude; but, when I wake up tonight, for the fourth or fifth time, with another muscle spasm that brings tears to my eyes, and makes my husband lose sleep, as he watches me with worry, I can’t help but feel like this is an additional, unfair burden. When I swallow all the post-op pain meds that I’m allowed for the day, and it’s still not quite enough, and I stare at my husband, who can’t figure out how to handle this situation, without losing his best friend, who is his dad, I can’t help but feel like the universe has been a little unfair in handing out the shit cards, from our life-deck. Sure, there’s starving children in Ethiopia, but the starving kids in Ethiopia aren’t also getting threatening letters from their mothers-in-law about how they’re deranged.
So, this weekend, aside from figuring out how to fend of my husband, who is practically chasing me down with heat and ice, insisting that I rest more, and do less; because being sick is a constant part of my life, I had to deal with drama. I want the only drama in my life to be hiding from the ice pack count. No matter what else is going on, stress-y family or not, we still have Rachel’s sore neck vs how much painting she should be allowed to do this week vs how many walks she wants to take today, vs whether or not that means she should also be allowed to stay up late. Being sick, like it or not, effects everything. It’s really shitty that any energy, physical or mental, is taken up by a grown woman who can’t apologize, for literally, and I shit you not, stamping her feet, and storming out of another grown woman’s house, after screaming at the sick person, in front of her child.
And, besides trying to enjoy the Fourth of July, and trying to find a fireworks display for Collin, we also had to have a talk with him about why Nana doesn’t want to come see him anymore. Can’t? Won’t? What’s the right choice? Maybe she’ll come to her senses one day, but it truly doesn’t look hopeful; not based on her messages to us. It’s a sad day when a Nana’s pride wins out over her grandson, but that’s what we’ve come to. A short while ago, we were willing to drop the whole thing, and just let it go, but Nana wanted to “win,” and make sure we knew that we were to blame for everything. Alas, no; it wasn’t to be. Why? Oh why do people have to behave this way?
Families are so complex and are filled with intertwining personalities that, if they refuse to recognize the importance of others, and especially of others’ feelings, can never co-exist as individuals, and therefore, never as a unit. It’s such a shame, when the pride and needs of one person can blow up the entire thing. One thing is for sure, MY family, is OUR family. We are a unit and a team, and we function as one. Where one of us goes, we all go. What one of us feels, we all feel. There’s no shaking this team’s foundation. And, despite how shitty this whole situation has made us feel this weekend; and, despite how heartbroken it’s made us to lose Nana this weekend, we are happy to discover how united it’s made us, yet again.
And, yes Bryon, I’ll ice my neck tomorrow because I finished my peacock painting today.